Lovely Licania


The North Sebastian Conservation Area (NSCA) once was a platted subdivision replete with asphalt roads that now serve as nature trails. Mother Nature has been “reclaiming” the land from the crumbling asphalt — with the help of gopher apple (Licania michauxii) pictured above proliferating through the asphalt.

At the Native Wildflower Workshop sponsored by the Eugenia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society and the Pelican Island Audubon Society on 3/14/15 in the Audubon House, featured speaker Kim Zarillo spoke about how most of the biomass of plants that grow in the scrub remains underground. Gopher apple is no exception, and it spreads via underground stems that have pushed up through the asphalt to form dense patches …

Gopher apple flowers during the summer, attracting butterflies and other pollinators …

Oblong fleshy cream-colored fruits follow in the fall and, as you can tell from its common name, are a favored food of gopher tortoises. Birds peck at these fruits as well.

Gopher apple is a member of of the Chrysoblanaceae family along with coco plum (Chrysobalanus icaco), and both of these plants produce single-seeded “plums” that were eaten by aboriginal peoples. Many foiks find quite palatable, though they remind me of cotton candy.

Also known as ground oak, gopher apple makes a wonderful woody ground cover with its dark green leathery leaves and its ability to proliferate from underground stems over time. Due to these underground stems, it does not transplant well and is best-established — over time (remember the underground biomass) — from potted plants in well-drained sandy soils, as shown below at Bok Tower…

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